Strange Fruit Project hails from Texas, but apart from the twangy accents, the group sounds nothing like Houston's chopped and screwed thugs and grille-pushers. The crew's remarkably soulful sound begs for comparisons to early Slum Village or perhaps a post-neo-soul Native Tongues. Its rhymes similarly eschew materialist fantasies, preferring instead to focus on social commentary and expressions of being. Equal parts iPod headnodder, ride-along companion, and club buddy, The Healing
is that rare rap album that's spiritual without being corny, relevant without being trendy, and dope without boasting about narcotics transactions. S1, Myth, and Myone's mellifluous mic skills ("The harder we write/the harder we spit it/The harder the struggle/the more reason there is for us to live it"
) make you realize what hip-hop used to be, how much you missed it, and how good it feels to hear it again. S1's production is on a par with 9th Wonder (who guest-produces "Special") for new-school excellence. SFP's execution is so tight, collaborations with Little Brother and Erykah Badu aren't even the best tracks on one of the most original (and best) hip-hop albums you'll hear this year. Just listen to "Good Times" which mixes P-Funk choral arrangements, an uptempo beat layered with strings and guitars, and party-hearty lyrics that never lapse into stupidity and you'll want all the strange fruit you can stomach.